Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Slovenia between Brussels and Budapest

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In Slovenia, the year of 2022 has been dubbed “super election year” because parliamentary, local and presidential elections will be held in it. 

Ninth parliamentary elections since the declaration of independence of the Republic of Slovenia will he held on 24 April 2022. The elections will be organized according to the proportional electoral system in eight constituencies, comprising of 11 election districts. The total number of eligible votes if 1,699,433. 

Each constituency is assigned 11 representative mandates (one per district), which will subsequently be divided at the level of the constituency and the state level among political parties proportionally to the share of votes won. In addition to 88 representatives, separate elections are organized for two representatives of ethnic communities (Italian and Hungarian), which will be elected according to the majority system in two separate electoral units (so called ethnic community electoral units). Hence, members of ethnic communities will vote two times at the elections for the Slovenian parliament, which amounts to positive discrimination. The election threshold is 4%.

All political parties whose lists get supported with signatures of three representatives or 100 voters at the state level and 50 at the constituency level, can run at the elections. The requirement for nonpartisan election lists is 1000 signatures of voters in each of the 8 constituencies. 

The following political parties, coalitions and lists will participate in the parliamentary elections: ● DeSUS – Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia  /Demokratična stranka upokojencev Slovenije/ ● Homeland League /Domovinska liga – Dom/ ● Resni.ca Movement /Gibanje Resni.ca/ ● Freedom Movement /Gibanje svoboda/ ● The Left /Levica/ ● Boris Popovič’s List – /Digitalizirajmo Slovenijo/ ● Marjan Šarec’s List – LMŠ /Lista Marjana Šarca/ ● Dr. Aleksandra Pivec’s Party – Our Country /Naša dežela/ ● Our Future and Good State /Naša prihodnost in Dobra država/ ● Nonpartisan People’s List Movement for a Sound Society / Nestrankarska ljudska lista Gibanja zdrava družba/ ● New Slovenia- Christian Democrats /Nova Slovenija – krščanski demokrati/ ● Pirate Party of Slovenia /Piratska stranka Slovenije/ ● Let’s Unite Slovenia /Povežimo Slovenijo/ (Concretely /Konkretno/, Green /Zeleni/, SLS, NLS, NS) ● Slovenian Democratic Party  / Slovenska demokratska stranka (SDS)/ ● Slovenian National Party /Slovenska nacionalna stranka (SNS)/ ● Social Democrats – SD /Socialnidemokrati/ ● Alenka Bratušek’s Party – SAB /Stranka Alenke Bratušek/● Vesna – Green Party /Zelena stranka/ ● For People of Slovenia /Za ljudstvo Slovenije (ZLS)/ ● Alliance “Lets Liberate Slovenia /Zavezništvo osvobodimo Slovenijo – ZOS/United Slovenia Movement/Gibanje zedinjena Slovenija (ZSI)/ and Party of Slovenian People /Stranka slovenskega naroda (SSN)/.

Complicated situation on Slovenian political scene 

After the 2018 parliamentary elections, a minority government headed by Marjan Šarec (LMŠ) was established. Šarec made a strategic mistake when on 27 January 2020 he stepped down from the position of the president of the government. He calculated that his resignation could lead to early parliamentary elections, after which he would once again come to the position of the president of the government. Such a reckless move enabled Janez Janša (SDS) to come to power and form a right-center government, together with the Modern Centre Party /Stranka modernega centra/ (now Concretely /Konkretno/), New Slovenia /Nova Slovenija/ (NSi) and Party of Pensioners /Stranka upokojencev DeSUS/.

At the very beginning of the mandate, Janša’s government faced the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and attributed its unreadiness to cope with the pandemic the government to Šarec’s government. Slovenia undertook rigorous measures in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. However, majority of the measures proved to be excessive, some even unnecessary, while many were illegal and unconstitutional. Furthermore, questionable and dubious spending, that is misuse of public money was also recorded during the pandemic. 

Despite the promises made that the government would unify the citizens and the announcements that the coalition parties will act as a corrective to the government headed by Janez Janša and his Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), the practice was completely different. Janez Janša is regarded as an ally and satellite of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (Fidesz), who is Putin’s key satellite in the European Union and NATO. This connection quickly became evident on the Slovenian political scene, particularly through the actions undertaken by Janša’s government and creation of an atmosphere in the society that had earlier also been typical of Janša’s rule. Analysts believe that this needs to be understood in the context of the fact that Budapest had become a center of “The Internationale of Crime”, while key actors in these financial (Russian) transactions have been identified as “Putinians”.

A step further was made. A period of divisions and radicalization of the Slovenian society, establishment of Orban’s model of rule and introduction of some different and alleged European values into the Slovenian social space begun. The suitable and obedient, but inexperienced, got appointed to positions. Pressure was put on the judiciary, while appointment of EU-delegated prosecutors was avoided. Pressuring and subordination of the media also became evident (most prominent cases include the RTV Slovenia broadcaster and the Slovenian News Agency – STA), as well sa untransparent use of budget funds and creation of a new social elite on the basis of personal criteria and preference of Janez Janša. In fact, Janša introduced in Slovenia an autocratic, chancellor-model of government in which all decisions are made by one single person – Janez Janša. The abuse of the repressive police apparatus and security-intelligence services, which keeps surveillance on opposition politicians, reporters and civil society, has also become evident. On many occasions Slovenian and foreign organizations dealing with human rights and status of democracy warned about the developments in the Slovenian society. Drops in ratings of Slovenia were also recorded in a number of areas. At the same time, during the rule of Janez Janša, the speaker of the parliament, who is a member of an opposition party, served a major part of his mandate. This indicates that there is no clear parliamentary majority. 

Slovenia between Brussels and Budapest

The close connection between the current Janez Janša’s government and the Visegrad group of states (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia), particularly Hungary and its Prime Minister Viktor Orban, is of no surprise. The credit for this connection can be attributed to the former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski (VMRO-DPMNE), to whom Viktor Orban has been providing refuge in Hungary for several years already, despite the international arrest warrant. What is typical for the Visegrad Group is that all member states are net receivers of European funds and, generally, as a rule, oppose the official Brussels on important issues, where it is necessary to demonstrate unity within the EU and adopt decisions on the future of the EU. The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party, who had already left the largest political group in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party (EPP), are the most prominent actors in such activities.

Viktor Orban is known as the main man of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the EU and NATO-u. Early last year, the so-called “non-papers” attributable to the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša were leaked to the public, which further deteriorated the very tense situation in the Western Balkans. The existence of the “non-paper” was confirmed also by the President of the European Council Charles Michel. Subsequent developments and tensions in the Western Balkans were in line with the contents of the respective “non-papers.” It is also worth noting that Slovenia, together with Hungary and Croatia, blocked the decision on EU sanctions to Milorad Dodik (SNSD), Member of the BiH Presidency, who is also known as Putin’s satellite in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hence, it is obvious that Putin had launched his satellites into the orbit of European and Balkan politics. 

All the activities clearly show that the Slovenian foreign policy has directly or indirectly been in the function of Putin’s policy within the EU and on the West Balkans, which is aimed at destruction of the unity within the EU and destabilization. Hence, it has been successful in completing the task so far. Therefore, the recent “excursion” of the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša to Kyiv is regarded in international circles with caution and suspicions. As a result of such a policy, Slovenia has lost the position it had enjoyed in the West Balkans, and due to the close connections with Victor Orban, as Putin’s satellite, international circles regard Slovenia with major reservations and utmost caution. In this context, it is important to understand that Janša’s engagement in Ukraine and the attempt to include Ukraine in the Slovenian election campaign is an experiment of improvision and unseriousness. It is crystal clear that a country of the size and stature in international relations, such as Slovenia, currently cannot resolve the burning global problem – as is the Russian invasion on Ukraine. Furthermore, several years ago Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša “slipped” and insulted the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as US President Joseph Biden.

Janša’s adventurism in foreign policy reflected also on his relations with China because of his solo stances on Taiwan, which triggered strong response by the Chinese authorities. Nevertheless, in such circumstances Janša nominated Slovenia for the position of a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2024-2025 period, which is an act of foreign-policy amateurism. One should also not neglect the fact that in the past Slovenia had already unsuccessfully applied for the position of a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2012-2013 period.

A state that is a full-fledged member of the EU and NATO, as well as aspires to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council should pursue a more appropriate foreign policy engagement. 

Analysts believe that at the upcoming parliamentary elections the citizens of the Republic of Slovenia will decide on the future of their country. Specifically, will the future of their country be directed towards the very core of the EU and cooperation within EU institutions or towards Budapest and Victor Orban.

Change of mindset of Slovenians 

The revision of Slovenian history by the current Slovenian government is aimed to present the defeated forces from World War II as the winners. This is a twisted act. Awakening of the defeated fascist ideologies has become a constant of the current government and it triggers strong reactions at social and political level. Slovenians as a nation are profound antifascists and very sensitive when it comes to falsification of history. 

Features of the autocratization process[2] are also apparent through the intensive attacks on the civil society, attacks on the reporters and censorship in the media. According to the report on the status of democracy by the University in Gothenborg, the states[3] with increased media censorship by the government are Mauritius, Poland and Slovenia. The countries that are most rapidly plunging into autocracy include Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Myanmar and Slovenia. According to the global Human Freedom Index, Slovenia has dropped to the 36th position, which indicates a descending trend. Furthermore, according to Gallup, Slovenia is among the top ten countries when it comes to anti-American sentiments. 

Analysts believe that just as he himself had announced, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša needs five years for the experiment of “liberation” of Slovenia. In this context, he naturally plans to change the mindset of Slovenians as a profoundly antifascist nation into something diametrically opposite. Slovenians need a vision for the future, not falsification of history. 

Slovenian mistrust in established political parties

In Slovenia, in the fourth election cycle the voters showed mistrust in established political parties. This is a consequence of their actions so far, because they did not offer innovative political programs, new faces and a more certain future to the citizens. It needs to be emphasized that while in 2004, when it became an EU member, Slovenia was the leading country in the group of 10 newly integrated countries by all indicators, it is now in the middle of the rankings. As a politician and president of a political party, Janez Janša is the only one in the EU with an almost 30-year mandate, which is a novum in democratic societies. This is an indicator of incapacitated democracy and leads to autocracy. 

Analysts believe that Slovenia is faced with a serious crisis of political elites, which commenced with the departure of prime minister and president of many years, Janez Drnovšek, from the political scene. As a result of such a situation, in each election cycle the voters seek new trustworthy individuals. At the current elections, they see Robert Golob as such an individual and his recently established Freedom Movement is the favorite in the parliamentary elections.

Slovenia to face political changes

The data presented by the Chair of the Commission for Prevention of Corruption (KPK) Robert Šumi[4] , according to which Slovenia is at major loss because of corruption and loses up to 3.5 billion Euros per year (which practically is the entire budget of the Republic of North Macedonia) offers an illustration of the situation in Slovenia. 

Public opinion polls indicate that the Freedom Movement has a lead, and is followed by the Slovenian Democratic Party. Namely, the parliamentary elections will factually be a contest between two main political contestants. Specifically, Golob’s Freedom Movement and Janša’s SDS, which diminishes the chances of smaller parties to pass the election threshold.

Analysts believe that Slovenia needs competent politicians with democratic capacity to achieve the much needed social consensus on the future. Slovenia needs a higher level of political culture, as in the current mandate of Janša’s government it had reached the lowest level since it gained independence. After the elections, Slovenia will need a “conclave” of key actors of the Slovenian state and society to decide on how is Slovenia to stop its further regression and ensure its future. The announced political changes in Slovenia also open the possibility of repetition of “Trump’s syndrome” in the transfer of authority. It is possible that the current government will not recognize the results of the elections and bring into question the legality and legitimacy of the election process and in such a way try to justify the defeat at the elections to its voters. Parliamentary elections will also have a direct impact on the local and presidential elections scheduled to take place in the second half of 2022. 

Published by IFIMESThe International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyzes developments in the Middle East, the Balkans and around the world. In the eve of the regular parliamentary elections, scheduled to take on 24 April 2022 in the Republic of Slovenia, IFIMES made an analysis of the pre-election situation in the country.        

Footnotes:
[1IFIMES – The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, has a special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)/UN since 2018.
[2] Interview with Prime Minister Janez Janša: Slovenia will be liberated in five years!, link: https://nova24tv.si/slovenija/intervju-s-predsednikom-vlade-janezom-janso-slovenija-bo-cez-pet-let-osvobojena/
[3] Democracy report 2022 Autocratization Changing Nature?, link: https://v-dem.net/media/publications/dr_2022.pdf
[4] Šumi: Due to corruption we are at a major loss of up to 3.5 billion Euros per year link: https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/sumi-zaradi-korupcije-izgubljamo-veliko-morda-3-5-milijarde-evrov-letno/604017

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